- Podcast listenership has soared globally in the past several years.
- A study of listeners around the world revealed that people who listen to podcasts tend to be more open to experience.
- Compared to social media users, podcast fans tend to be less neurotic and less concerned with belonging.
People who listen to podcasts tend to be motivated by the pursuit of new information, more so that a need for belonging or or social relatedness, according to results of an international survey out Wednesday.
Researchers in Australia and California teamed up with the goal of better understanding why people listen to podcasts. Previous research has revealed that most regular podcast listeners in the US are seeking entertainment or information, or they simply prefer audio as a medium.
The latest survey, from Queensland Institute of Technology in Australia, was open to listeners abroad as well. About 300 participants answered the survey, and 240 indicated that they had listened to a podcast before. That pool of respondents went on to answer questions about how often they listen to podcasts and what kinds they prefer.
Overall, podcast listeners seemed to be driven by a sense of intellectual curiosity, the authors wrote. They were correct in predicting that people who are more open to new information would be more likely to listen to podcasts. But to the researchers’ surprise, people who reported a strong need to belong were less likely to have listened to a podcast, and listening to podcasts was not associated with a sense of autonomy, social relatedness, or meaning.
Compared to social media users — who tend to be relatively neurotic and seek belonging, according to past surveys — podcast listeners represent a more independent, information-seeking demographic, the authors concluded.
The number of podcast listeners in the US is on the rise; according to Statista, estimated listenership jumped from 46.1 million to 75.9 million between 2017 and 2020.
The survey ranked personality by the Big Five traits
The authors used the Big Five factors to consider differences in personality. Of the five traits — openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism — they predicted openness to experience would have the greatest bearing on listening behaviors, since podcasts offer the opportunity to explore new topics.
As they expected, participants who scored high in openness on the Big Five personality inventory were more likely to have listened to a podcast than those who scored low. A similar trend has been observed separately with active Twitter users and early bloggers.
Although the study authors didn’t make predictions about the other four personality traits, they did consider the whole inventory when surveying podcast listeners. They found that people with high scores for neuroticism, or negative emotionality, were less likely to listen to podcasts. The opposite is true for social media users, who reported higher levels of neuroticism in a previous survey.
Men were overall more likely to have listened to a podcast than women
Based on the survey results, men tended to be bigger podcast fans compared to women. This is consistent with previous findings, but it doesn’t accurately capture non-binary people and other genders.
However, the male-female gap in listenership could correlate with gendered motives for using technology, the authors suggested. A separate survey published in 2013 found that more women use technology as a means to connect, while men place a greater value on online information-seeking.
Motives for listening to podcasts were self-reported, so there’s a chance of bias towards more positive, media-centric responses over deeper, psychological reflections.